Sunday, May 31, 2009

Seti's, Symon, and Mochi Ice Cream

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Seti's Polish Boys

Friday afternoon Regina and I decided to drive over to the West Side Market to pick up some pork belly. A place I've always wanted to try is the Seti's Polish Boys. Come to think of it, Seti's isn't a place at all, but rather a truck parked in a place (Dean Supply parking lot).

Their concept is simple, make the best Polish Boy in town. Offering about 4 or 5 different versions of their dogs, Seti's doesn't try to get too fancy.

I ordered the classic Polish Dog with onions, relish, and mustard. Admittedly, I didn't think it was going to be some earth shattering experience. After the first bite I told myself that I could easily walk up and buy two more of them and down them on the spot. Is that "earth shattering"? Maybe.

In the end it was the dog that shined through on this thing. It is a very juicy rendition and when it's combined with the relish, onion, and mustard it just tastes even better. I also bought an order of fries that were freshly cooked and hot as hell.

Their other incarnations were a little more out there for me. First off, I don't like fries on top of anything (and I certainly don't want bbq sauce on top of the fries), so I think the Best Polish Boy is out of the question. I will, however, be trying the other dogs that have the chili on them.

In the end I walked away a big fan. When I asked the lady working the window how long they had been there she said that they've been at Dean Supply for two years. Before Dean they had been over at Tri C Metro for seven years. I'd say that's plenty of time to create the perfect Polish Boy.

[See the picture for the menu.]

Seti's Polish Boys
3500 Woodland Ave (Dean Supply Parking Lot)
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 240-0745

Seti's Polish Boys on Urbanspoon

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

The Seti's lady (I should have gotten her name) at the window handed me a business card as I left. After I had finished inhaling my lunch I looked at the card and on the back they had some interesting info.

Apparently The Food Network is going to have a show that airs in June called "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". In it, different Food Network stars such as Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, Ted Allen, Michael Symon, and others talk about some of their favorite foods.

(Picture from Seti's posted on Yelp!)

In the episode that airs on June 23 at 9:30pm, Seti's Polish Boys will be making one of the best things Michael Symon ever ate. Pretty cool, huh?

Speaking of The Best Thing I Ever Ate...

When we went to the North Shore of Oahu (Hale iwa to be more specific), I had the most awesome mochi ice cream E-V-E-R. In an ice cream shop called Scoops of Paradise, which has a flavor named after local celeb Jack Johnson, I tried ice cream mochi for the first time.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't like the way classic mochi taste (no ice cream). In fact there really isn't much taste at all. But if you take that rice flour coated nothingness and wrap it around some good ice cream? Whoah. You end up with an absolutely addictive sensory experience between the chewiness of the mochi and the flavor of the ice cream.

When we walked into the shop we perused the case and that's where I saw this rack of strange looking oval things. When I asked the guy what they were, he simply called them mochi. When I asked him what the tasted like he said I'd have to try them myself, that it was hard to explain.

Right after I ordered a couple he gleefully smiled and said, "I love seeing people's faces when they eat their first mochi."

I took a bite and was instantly in love (think Tony and Maria in West Side Story).

All I can say is that over the next three days I went back to that place every night. I was in fact addicted.

If you've ever talked to Dave at Whole Foods you know that he's a pretty cool dude. After being unsuccessful in our quest to get Bubbie's ice cream mochi ordered at some other grocery stores, Dave came through and informed me today that they had them in.

Bubbie's (made in Honolulu) are THE ice cream mochi that are served in restaurants around the country. They aren't that bullshit that they carry at Trader Joe's or even the ones Whole Foods was carrying before. Those mochi kind of melted in your hand. The outside becomes sticky and they just don't taste all that good. If you've ever had ice cream mochi and loved them, I guarantee these are the ones.

If you are ice cream mochi addicted, like myself, I suggest you head to the Whole Foods on Cedar and Warrensville. My hope is that these will sell well and become a Whole Foods staple.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Old ladies....who knew?

The CFT posting on Snowville Creamery got me to thinking about our yogurt making session last weekend.

You see, about a month and a half ago I was in the dairy isle at Whole Foods. I was buying my customary 1/2 gallon of Snowville half and half, when I noticed this little old lady perusing the variety of whole milks.

I bent over and told her that the Snowville was the absolute tastiest stuff on the shelf. I told her that my wife makes yogurt with it.

"Well that's what I wanted to use it for!", she said.

Feeling a sense of surprise, I told her that I was going to the east coast and would bring back my wife's favorite yogurt (Pequa Valley) as starter. So the deal was this: I bring back a quart for her and she comes over and shows my wife how she does her yogurt.

Last Saturday Christine (the little old lady from Whole Foods) came over and talked yogurt with the bride. It was a pretty cool couple of hours. Although she was out of her comfort zone being in someone else's kitchen, she was able to impart a good bit of knowledge. It truly was a lot of fun.

Old Women Part II
The next day we went to a family friend's fortieth wedding anniversary party. It was just an informal gathering at his home. My father-in-law told me that I had to come. That there was going to be this Italian woman there that can bake like you wouldn't believe. Typically when I hear this stuff I take it with a grain of salt (sometimes people are just trying to be nice).

We walk into the party and I spot these amazing desserts on the table. I took one look and knew who made them. The little Italian woman walks the walk.

These pastries looked like peaches. They were essentially to spongy wafers that were hollowed out and filled with custard. The two custard filled wafers were then put together, coated in a liqueur, and sprinkled with sugar. To complete the whole peach theme she had bought these little plastic things that looked like a stem and a leaf.

The creme puffs tasted every bit as good as they looked. The part I love is that when I asked her how she made them she was very nonchalant about the effort it took to make them. She dismissed the question as if I was asking her how she made Kraft's macaroni and cheese. I love it.

A plate full of kolachky cookies was made by a mystery woman who wasn't able to make it to the party. These were much more dainty then the puffier ones that I've eaten in the past. These were dangerously light (more for me to gourge myself on).

Here's to all the little old women out there. Teach me!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ono Gelato

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After we finished up dinner at A Saigon Cafe we decided to take a quick drive up to Paia for dessert. We decided to stop at Ono Gelato in Paia.

It was raining pretty hard when we started left and seemed to get worse as we got closer to our destination. On the way we drove behind a pick-up truck with a little stoner guy under a blue tarp sparking up a bowl. It was just this little red glow lighting up his face. I love seeing stuff like that. Reason #381 why I love Hawaii: Stoners.

If you've been to Paia then you know that there's certainly eco-centric flair to the entire town - think tropical Berkley.

Ono Gelato fits in very well with the town's concern for the environment. All plasticware and bowls are biodegradeable, organic ingredients, and an entire vegan case.

They carry a wide variety of flavors that are made with only things that are inseason (which is much easier in Hawaii than where I live in Cleveland).

Ono Gelato is very creamy in its consistency. The portions are moderatly sized, which I actually like. I don't like it when ice cream places give you a ton of ice because it ends up getting thrown away.

With all of the different fruit that grows in Hawaii the selection is always impressive. OG is worth a stop if you are in the area or even Wailuku.

Ono Gelato Company
115 Hana Hwy
Paia, HI 96779
(808) 579-9201

Ono Gelato Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 22, 2009

Give the gift of .....salt?

If it's one thing I enjoy more than receiving a really cool gift, it's giving one (I'm pretty confident this goes for my wife as well).Maybe it's just a sign that I'm getting older, but I can assure you this wasn't the case when I was a kid.

Whatever the reason, I can say that as we've delved deeper into the food realm it is obvious there is no shortage in cool gifts to spend your money on.

Since Regina's birthday was coming up on the horizon I knew that I had to get my gift giving wheels in motion. Imagine my surprise when I was nosing around Michael Walsh's A View from the Kitchen and clicked one of the purveyors he had listed. I noticed a link to The Meadow.

The Meadow? What they hell do they sell?

Jackpot! The Meadow is a shop out of Portland, Oregon that offers a massive number of salts. It would be the perfect gift for my self diagnosed saltaholic wife.

For the past year she has been spooning her sea salt with a tiny glass bowl and spoon. Effective? Yes, but not much to look at in the decorative sense. That being said I knew she would love the hibiscus salt dish with dainty leaf and twig spoon.

What would go better with a hibiscus salt dish than some volcanic sea salt from Hawai'i?

The dish was a huge hit. At first the blackness of the salt freaked her out, but I think it's grown on her.

Mission accomplished. Cool gift given.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Sign-less Gem

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Most restaurants have a sign. The only place I've really seen the "signless" phenomenon flourish is NYC (Freeman's comes to mind, not only without a sign but also at the end of an alley).

Imagine my surprise when we found a sans sign sensation on the island of Maui. A Saigon Cafe (yes...A Saigon Cafe) is a wonderful little spot nestled in the back streets of Wailuku. If you're coming at night just look for the neon shooting stars mounted on the top of building.

Sitting in the shadow of Kaahumanu Avenue, A Saigon Cafe is not much to look at on the outside (or the inside for that matter), but was full of locals when we walked in.

The inside consists of two aisles of booths running the length of the building. Servers tell corny jokes in broken English as they take your order.

As an appetizer we went with the Fresh Summer Rolls with mint, rice noodles, sprouts, shrimp, & peanut sauce.

We ordered the Clay Pot Pork. This is an absolute must when you go. Served boiling hot, the CPP is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes of all time. The last time we were here I ordered this and Regina became insanely jealous when she had a taste.

The Fried Opakapaka with black bean sauce, broccoli, and carrots was surprisingly tasty. I didn't think that I was going to be down with fried opakapaka but it was a pretty hearty dish.

As a rule we generally don't order dessert at Vietnamese restaurants. This night was no different. We chalked it up as a great and inexpensive dinner went on our way. I wish I could post a menu but they didn't have any for us to take with us.

This is a fantastic little spot to have some spicy food at a very reasonable price. The fish was actually a little expensive, but I'd say the total bill was no more than $50 with tip.

A Saigon Cafe
1792 Main Street
Wailuku, HI 96793

(808) 243-9560

A Saigon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 8, 2009

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This is just a short list of places I’ve been to near my house (and beyond) that don’t really warrant more than a few sentences.

No. 1 Express
If it’s number one it’s got to be good, right? Wrong. Superior, No. 1, Superior No. 1, I don’t know where the whole “best” thing comes from with Chinese restaurants, but it doesn’t tell the customer much about the actual establishment.

No. 1 Express is run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant that has surprisingly bland General Tso’s chicken. If it's spice you like, go elsewhere. I can say that the service is fast, the store is clean, and the food is cheap. I wouldn’t, however, be expecting anything approaching Sun Luck Garden.

No. 1 Express

3977 Warrensville Center Road
Warrensville Heights, OH 44122
(216) 991-5944

No. 1 Express on Urbanspoon

DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines
This sandwich shop makes both hot and cold submarine sandwiches. When I walked in I saw a massive neon DiBella’s sign on the back wall that reminded me of the Kenny Rogers Roasters episode of Seinfeld. Put that sucker on the other side of your bedroom window, and you just might become Kramer-like.

If you’re watching your figure this is probably not the place you want to eat at. When I want to go, I have to do so without my wife because it's definitely not Subway. I ordered the Godfather which had Genoa salami, capicola, and spicy ham. The sandwich, which I ordered hot, was really delicious. Unfortunately, the guilt factor afterward has been enough to keep me away.

DiBella's Old Fashioned Submarines
4025 Richmond Road
Warrensville Heights, OH 44122
(216) 378-0783

DiBella's Old Fashioned Submarines on Urbanspoon

Rocco’s New York Style Pizza
I was over in the North Royalton area and drove past a sign that said “New York Style Pizza”. Since it was dinner time I figured I’d swing in. Located at (I believe) the former location of an Antonio’s satellite store, Rocco’s is for the most part a carry-out place. There are a few tables that you can eat at, but nothing totally dedicated to dining.

I went with a small (14”) pizza with pepperoni. Ray, the guy cooking the pizzas, was very friendly and served up my pizza. The pizza was, in fact, New York style. I liked it okay, but thought that the crust was missing a little something (what that is I can’t say for sure). It’s a solid pie, just not anything extraordinary. It reminded me a lot of the neighborhood pizza shops you find in the Jersey/ New York area.

The service is friendly and the prices are good. When I asked if they had any menus they said they were getting more in this week. Is it me, or do you think that’s a little ridiculous? If I owned a restaurant (especially a carry-out pizza place) I would have menus in reserve. It’s worth a try if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t call it a destination.

Rocco's Pizza
5670 Wallings Rd
Cleveland, OH 44133
(440) 582-1132

Rocco's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mustard and Mayonnaise Glazed Asparagus

This time of year, at least in Ohio, there is a limit as to what can be had from the local farmer's market. I think it's kind of nice that gradually more and more comes to harvest, as opposed to having everything coming at you all at once. In a sense it prevents you from gravitating toward your favorite produce.

When the June Food + Wine arrived last week, I saw a couple of recipes for using mayo in marinades on asparagus. Written by Nate Appleman of A16 in SF, he says these can also be used on broccoli and fennel. Anytime I can pick up a recipe that translates into more than one veggie, I'll try it at least once.

I picked up some thick stalks of asparagus from Muddy Fork Farm at the Shaker Square North Union Farmer's Market. I feel the thick stalks work better for grilling because there's still a substantial amount of asparagus left once you're done peeling them. I also think the thicker pieces are easier to maneuver on the grill (thin ones can fall through the grate, doh!).

This is an absolute killer recipe. I wasn't quite sure how well it was going to turn out, but the spears maintain a crispness to them that is really appealing. The marinade is present but not at all overpowering. Combine all of that with the charring from the grill and you've got one fantastic side dish.

You can print the recipe out here. There is also a companion recipe for Smoky Glazed Asparagus here, although I haven't tried it yet.

Mike Walsh over at A View from the Kitchen had a great link about asparagus from yesterday's New York Times. In the article they talk about a french asparagus varietal from the '30's that could grow to around 2 inches in diameter and around a pound per spear! Slap one of those on a bun and you've got a vegetarian hot dog.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thurman Cafe

Walter Dad and I took a roadtrip to Columbus this past Sunday. I had a couple of things I had to do while I was down there, so it was a perfect opportunity to catch some food at the same time.

I knew that when we got down there that I wanted to take him to Thurman Cafe in German Village. Since it was the weekend I figured lunch was going to be packed; so I planned on a midday visit to avoid any major wait.

We got to Thurman Cafe around 3 and there was about a 5-10 minute wait. It's kind of like Melt in the sense that there is a waiting room on one side, and the bar and dining area on the other. On the plus side, the waiting room offers free popcorn while you wait.

Here's a tip: go at off peak hours. At dinner and lunch the wait can sometimes be measured in hours. There comes a point where the wait isn't worth it. It is an old bar space so (as you can see from the photo below), space is very limited.We sit down and the first thing I notice is that it's much more pleasant to eat here than the old days due to the absence of cigarette smoke. It had been the first time I'd been there since the smoking ban was put into law. Very nice. Looking around the bar you can still see the nicotine patina that coats the walls and ceiling (the smell however is gone.)

I ordered the Jonnie's Special which is a 1/2# burger with blue cheese, horseradish cheese, and bacon served with fries. I can't remember what Walt got but it was massive (pictured below). However, his burger was not as big as the Thurmanator which was the centerpiece of a Man vs. Food episode (a hamburger with a half a pound of ham on it.)

The burgers here are great. Like most things, the best ever is a relative term. I would say Thurman Cafe rates toward the top of the list for most people that have been. The big complaint is going to be the wait. As I said before, do yourself a favor and go at the odd hour - you'll be glad you did.

Thurman Cafe
183 Thurman Ave Columbus, OH 43206 (614) 443-1570

Thurman Cafe on Urbanspoon